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How to really make the most of Shravan Month (Sawan Maas)

Shravan represents many things. It represents learning to become open, just relaxing and dropping identity, dropping any aspect of feeling guarded, any aspect of just being in the normal mode of mind and heart and personality, and just asking essentially, what would I be, how would I feel if I wasn't holding on to all of this? And what's the use of it? Is it necessary? It’s about just learning to open, letting the energy of this time period of Shravan, to hit you in a different way, and be more deeply connected to that Atmic principle. If we hold up a guard, a shield, it does a good job to keep things away, but if we are trying to penetrate all the way to the heart of hearts, to the deep interior of our mind and to that utmost soul or spiritual essence or principle, then we have to learn to relax the mind. Learn to relax the feeling of self so that that energy can come through and wash us clean.

So typically during Shravan in India, it is usually one month’s time during the monsoons. It can be considered as nature's Abhishekam. Abhishekam, the process of offering holy water to the Shivling, can be defined in different ways, but a good way to look at it is a process of cleansing, a process of purification. It's like cleansing everything out of the mind that isn't needed, cleansing everything out of the heart that isn't needed, is not necessary, cleansing any aspect of the personality that’s not necessary. So we're looking at all of the karma that we hold onto… the action of thought, the action of speech, and the physical action itself, how we live, and how we act. Those actions, those karmas we are trying to purify. If they were authored from a separate sense of self, the normal egoic, separate feeling of being opposite or different than everything else around us, that feeling of difference is what we're trying to let go of. So we're cleansing all the difference out of us. Difference in a sense of observational difference can still remain, but we don't want to feel it as separate from the cosmos. We don't want to feel it as separate from the Consciousness of Infinite Goodness. Even if we don't understand the rhymes or riddles, or the reasons why it has manifested, we want to go as deep as we can to understand that cosmic mystery. Abhishekam is both external and internal. It's a kind of an alchemical process, if you will. It is outside, but it's also inside. We get more of the internal process when we recognize what it is, and we attune or participate with it through that attunement. If you can participate actions along with attunement, it's even better. When we do Shiva abhishekam during this time it is representing our monsoon Divine forces, the Ganga flowing towards the Infinite Self - Paramatma - the Infinite Self beyond what we know Self to be. All of these terms are really very powerfully beyond the definitions that we give them, but we have to start somewhere to look at it, to give ourself a little bit of a foundation, so from that place we work.

Shravan would be considered an astrological season where the opportunity is more intensified

to connect with the Consciousness of Infinite Goodness or Shiva. It's not that you can’t connect to Shiva outside of this time but the idea with any yogic or spiritual path is to work with the forces of nature. Don't fight those forces, work with them. For example - when working with your mind, don't treat it like an evil enemy and beat it up and make it meditate. Work with your mind. If you think about unity, it gets more relaxed because it has less conflict and it naturally meditates. If it wants to think, fine. Think! But think about unitive things. Your mind will eventually get more calm, your heart will open, and you will relax into that. And that's the meditation rather than trying to strangle the mind and make it do what you want. So the same principle applies here. Astrologically you have the magnetism of earth and the planets affecting you. You have an electrical grid, you can call it, of earth being a little bit different. These may all be slight changes, in our perception they might even be smaller, but the idea is that there's something extremely profound that is working with you. So we don't need to push the hand of nature away when we're getting the help because we don't feel like it's Divine enough or perfect enough, or think, “I can do this at any other time”. Yes, you can, but if you get help, why not take the help? Work with the help. So that's what this time represents. This is a season astrologically where magnetically, electrically, psychically, subtly, and you can call it spiritually, at least in some more relative sense, things are working in your favor to assist you with your own cleansing process to become more like the Divine. If the Divine is pure, we have to purify or at least recognize our pure state to become like the Divine. Sri Aurobindo once said, “If you wish for the Divine to enter, you must first make your house clean.” …the house of our body, heart, mind, and intentions.

The shivling is a symbol that is representing that Consciousness of Infinite Goodness. You could say that in all stones Shiva is existing, meaning the Consciousness of Infinite Goodness is in the hardest of things and beyond. A further parallel is that no matter how hard or encrusted and solid our separate sense of self feels, Shiva exists within your stone…the stone of mind, the stone of heart. With Abhishekam on the Shivling we are trying to erode the stone by pouring the water of our attention onto the stone, allowing for all that isn't the Divine to flow away, to be eroded down, to be worked through. It is a symbol of the cosmic process. It is the power of creation in all things. So you can't actually see it. Your senses were built by it, but can't see it, can't taste it, can't smell it, can't touch it. Your mind was built by it. All of the thoughts were built by it and yet, by no amalgamation of thoughts can you see it, can you think of it. No matter how much you want to imagine, you can't imagine it. But it built your imagination, your power to imagine was built by it and yet, no matter how much you imagine, you can't imagine it. It's this miraculous way of looking into that which is beyond what we see, beyond what we touch and taste, beyond all the sensory desires, all the ways that we interpret life, all the ways that we think internally and feel internally. So every single experience that we've had, our question is what is beyond this? And even the self that's asking it, if you can feel that self, it means it's not the real self, because some reality built it. So then what is that Ultimate Reality that constructed the self that you are experiencing? Whether this self feels contracted and small or expanded and eternal, what is that feeling and what created that?

You can look at all of these things that we offer during puja as cosmic principles as well as personal principles. By personal, I mean they go beyond what we understand about ourselves. But ultimately it's a connection point. So when we do the offering we'll be using this particular object called the Shringi. Symbolically it’s like the wide mouth of the mind, if you will. It is the way that we pull in energy and then it gets focused, funneled, and directed. So this represents some aspect of the dhyanam or meditation. We pour the water or the energy, in this case it represents the Ganga and then as we focus it on the Absolute. It represents our own attention. Focusing on the Absolute and chanting the mantras are ways of invoking or bringing forward, this profound energy of our own being. And it's also beyond so it's not limited to us. We don't own it and nor does the cosmos as we would understand it, nor would IT own IT. So we wanna look beyond into these transcendental principles.

Have the intention to offer everything to the Consciousness of Infinite Goodness.

People often say, “Well, what does Shiva want? Money? What is an offering?” It's not about material things. It's about your attachments. Offer your attachment to thought, your attachment to desires, your attachment to money, etc. Look at where your attachments are. If you are experiencing a reduction in your spiritual nature of pure consciousness because you are attached to the things of this realm, to Maya, attached to the sensation of separation, that is what you must look at and offer. All the objects that we see are separate from us, bind us here like a glue. We're offering all of this, the glue part. It's not about the objects. It's about whether or not you're attached to them, fixated, and trying to juice your happiness from form. Instead, eliminate that needy connection so that infinite wellspring of joy and love and consciousness can manifest naturally, purely, as it is. Let go of all the artifices that you depend upon to give you the happiness so that happiness can just spring up eternally from deep within.

Examine things in your life that you feel you're attached to and along with the ritual make that as your offering. Everything that you feel can be offered… a feeling, this feeling, that feeling can be offered after you let go of that one…another one comes, “oh, did I do it right?” Let go of that feeling. “Maybe I should let go of a better feeling”… let go of that! Let go of the feelings about your feelings and let go of the one who thinks it is surrendering. Let go if it all. You are pure undifferentiated, non documentable consciousness. This mind and heart that likes to document and think about things is not needed. Bring this state of mind to your puja or rituals so it becomes a deep meditation. Sit and contemplate. Go deeper.

Go back to the original nature, the undifferentiated, formless, unmanifest consciousness. A ritual way is to have at least one understanding. So pick your understanding, whatever that is for you. Take it with you and always be working to find the unlimited. If you are working with any understanding, you have to take the limits off. The prayer, the ritual, the process stops at the limit. So unlimit it! How do we start to do that? By opening our mind to more possibilities.

When we put our good intentions on the shivling, do they really go here? If this is a representation of the cosmos, how do you offer it to the cosmos? Keep taking the limits of the mind and thinking off. Go past the small ways of thinking. If you want to enter into a bigger, so to speak, experience, a more expanded state of lovingness and heart and clarity and focus and mind, beyond the brain, the beyond the human body, you have to take the limits of understanding off.

So all these types of contemplations and rituals could be part of your practice during Shravan season. You can engage in your practice however it moves you, however it comes natural to you. You don't have to set it up a certain way. You could literally get a little rock and put it on the floor and then pour water on it and sink into the meaning. Get into this rhythm, this flow, this connection. You can imagine this season is an extended sadhana time with a lot of contemplation, thinking about your life, thinking about your intentions. Let everything distill to experience Shiva or the Consciousness of Infinite Goodness, like the abhishekam, the rain, the monsoons, it just comes knocks all the dirt down. Distill everything to be calm, clean, crystal clear. You can find the Divine in any way you wish and that's the beauty of this spiritual path. It is completely non restrictive. Which is also why doing the Abhishekam is a very interesting principle because you are focusing on the creative principle in all things. It's in every atom, it's in every cell, it's in every part of your being.

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